Starting a raised bed on a slope

AkPam(z3AK)June 20, 2003


My yard is all slope. Where I want to start a raised bed 3 tiered is on a gentle 20 degree slope.

What would be the best way to set them up? It will be new beds.

Also what would be a good material for making them? I don't want something that would/could leech into the ground then into my veggies and then to me. I prefer healthy gardening.

Oh the beds will be about 4 foot wide and up to 6 to 8 feet long. How deep should I go? How high should I have the sides?

First time I have had enough room for a real raised garden and find myself clueless.

Any and all hints, clues, ideas etc are welcome.

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I would use chopped stone if I could afford it! I used white chopped stone as edging on some walkways, & it's just beautiful. And it won't "leach"! You can use nearly anything: the metal stuff isn't that pretty, but it works, & you can add something more attractive later. On Frugal Gardening or Cottage Gardening, I forget which, they have a thread, with photos, about upended wine bottles used as edging! The Dallas Morning News had an article Friday, June 20, about using a mortar saw to cut terra cotta into shapes for edging (they do have a web site somewhere, but I get the paper version). If you use wood, use untreated. Cedar is very attractive. It'll eventually rot, but by the time it does, you'll be in the mood to replace it anyway. I think I would start at the top & make sure the shallowest part is deep enough & make sure the tops of the beds are level. I don't know if I'd till or not: I've done it both ways. If your raised beds are deep enough, just put down about 10 layers of newspaper & fill in with your new soil. The grass & weeds will (should) suffocate. If you have bermuda grass, you'll have to use stronger measures: I used 20% vinegar, sprayed full strength on a hot sunny day, & my bermuda was so pernicious, I had to do it twice. Then dig out every little piece of it. Be sure to use hand & eye protection. I probably would get compost delivered in bulk for a project the size of yours. Call around. Sometimes you can get a custom mix, if you want lava sand or something in it. The easiest way I've found to mulch a new bed is to mulch the whole thing & then scrape aside the mulch from each place where I plant a seed or a plant. Much easier than trying to add mulch around a new plant without damaging it.
Good luck & have fun!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2003 at 2:06PM
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Hi -

Got this off of the frugal gardening forum, a thread about favorite pesticides/herbicides, I think:

A safe way to preserve wood
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Products Laboratory has developed this recipe for preserving lumber used aboveground (such as for fences and picnic tables). The treatment is also safe for wood to be used in the groundÂthat is, it won't leach toxic chemicals into your garden soilÂand the wood will last longer than if left untreated.
Here's the recipe (and please be sure to follow it carefully):
Melt 1 ounce of parrafin wax in a double boiler (DO NOT heat over a direct flame).
Off to the side, carefully place slightly less than a gallon of solvent (mineral spirits, paint thinner or turpentine at room temperature) in a bucket, then slowly pour in the melted parrafin, stirring vigorously.
Add 3 cups exterior varnish or 1.5 cups boiled linseed oil to the mix, stirring until the ingredients are blended. When it cools, you can dip your lumber into this mixture or brush it onto the wood.

I am using more home made products myself these days, using safer ingredients, not only for the environment, but also for the fact that parrots share my home with plants that are overwintered. Great ideas on their site, and the $$ I have saved can be put into other things I must purchase.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2003 at 10:35AM
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gardening_fever(z8, bc)

I'm planning on building a raised bed as well for next year's vegetables. It is also on a gentle slope and I'm probably going to use untreated wood just b/c it's cheap. My question is. Do I have to dig down to level the beds? The topsoil here is pretty thin - about 6 inches. Below that is the hardpan - too difficult to dig. Or should just plunk the wood down and fill with compost and that's it? I'm just worried that nutrients maybe washed out down to the bottom of our hill as oppose to feeding my plants/veggies which then defeats the purpose of attempting to do this exercise at all. We get lots of rain here in Vancouver Any suggestions and/or pics would be much appreciated.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2003 at 10:40PM
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I just had six 4x4 raised beds built out of 2x12's with hardware cloth stapled to the bottom, then weedcloth over that. We plunked the frames down on sloping lawn and filled them, even though they tilted, since the guy that was helping said it was way too much work to remove the sod and level the space where they would go. After the frames were in place, 3" of sand and 9" of a mixture of vermiculite, peat and worm castings were added.

I don't know if there are going to be future problems with the sloping beds (they are 4-6" higher on the top than the bottom), but even if we don't have any problems, I wish they were level, maybe even terraced, for aesthetic reasons. Whenever I look at them, I think how much more beautiful they could be if they were "done right". If this persists through the summer, I may well have to re-do it all come Spring. I'm reminded of the old adage, "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" Am I just unstressing, or is there a valid reason for my worrying about the slope?

Has anyone had any experience with growing things where the ground slopes, and especially where wooden raised beds slope?

This is my first garden, and I want it to be a good one, and am hoping that I haven't wasted a year taking a "shortcut". Or is it "much ado about nothing"?
Thanks for any input...

    Bookmark   May 31, 2006 at 10:00AM
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maineman(z5a ME)

gardening_fever, squares,

I think that raised beds on slopes should be levelled, and the paths between the beds should be levelled as well. At best, it's inconvenient walking on sloping paths and, at worst, it can make you fall.

Of course it's more work to do the levelling but, in the long run, it's worth it. The property here is sloping and I have been terracing all of our growing space in a stair-step fashion. I have used my tiller like a little bulldozer to aid in moving the soil, using a homemade dozer blade.

In the background of this next picture you can see that I have been using short sections cut from downed trees as blocks to build the terrace walls. You can use the short tree logs like building blocks to build little retaining walls. I had to use my chainsaw to fell the trees to give more sun for the garden. Several were actually overhanging the garden and shading it badly. We used some of them as firewood and some of them as free materials to build our terrace retaining walls. It would have cost a lot of money to purchase the materials for the terrace retaining walls.

The pictures show the tiller with its finger tines used for traction for the dozer blade. I also have conventional slasher tines that I use to till an area to "soften it up" preparatory to terracing it. The tiller has been a great help with the "heavy work." The slasher tines are great at sod busting. I have affectionately given my Merry Tiller the nickname of "Tillie".


    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 11:47AM
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bloomville(z4 NY)

I have been gardening with raised beds on slopes for 3 years. I use the lasagna (layering; no-dig) method and then "shore up" the edges of the bed with mulch hay. I have never dug (too damn rocky!!) and have never levelled on my north-sloping beds--just started with a layer of wet corrug. cardboard and successive layers on compost, soil, rotted manure and peat (although lately I am skipping the peat for financial and environmental reasons). I have had excellent results growing asparagus, tomatoes, garlic, chard, basil, shallots, sunflowers, squash, and many other veges. (And strawberries!).

I did not even attempt to "level" the beds, and have had no problems with erosion or run-off, due to: 1) the use of the mulch hay as a weed barrier & "wall" on all sides; 2) adding new organic material to the bed (compost, manure) each spring; and 3) generally healthy soil using these organic methods. I also cover the beds in a thick mulch of hay and autumn leaves every fall.Over time, the beds kind of naturally level out, so long as there is hay to sort of hold the lower portion of the bed in place.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2006 at 10:24PM
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